Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump says he will not hold a debate with Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders, an event that would have become a potentially high-ratings television spectacle.
Trump and Sanders have previously expressed an interest to hold a one-on-one encounter in California, in what could have been an unprecedented move since Republican and Democratic candidates traditionally do not debate each other until the parties have selected their nominees.
However, Trump rejected the idea in a surprise move on Friday, attributing his decision to Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton’s lead in her party’s primary race.
“Based on the fact that the Democratic nominating process is totally rigged and Crooked Hillary Clinton and (Democratic National Committee chair) Deborah Wasserman Schultz will not allow Bernie Sanders to win, and now that I am the presumptive Republican nominee, it seems inappropriate that I would debate the second place finisher,” he said in a statement.
“Likewise, the networks want to make a killing on these events and are not proving to be too generous to charitable causes, in this case, women’s health issues,” Trump added about his condition that he would participate only if the debate were to raise more than $10 million for charity.
The business mogul called the suggested debate “an easy payday,” but said he would wait until he can debate the first place finisher in the Democratic Party.
In response to Trump’s sudden decision, Sanders said “I heard that he was going to debate me, then I heard that he was not going to debate me, then I heard that he was going to debate me. Now you’re telling me that he is not going to debate me. Well, you know, I hope that he changes his mind again.”
Sanders is running behind Clinton in the race for the Democratic nomination for the November 8 presidential election.
But a nationally televised debate with the presumptive Republican nominee could have been a big boost to his chances in the California state primary on June 7.